Review: Mimi and The Wolves Volume 1 (Avery Hill Publishing)

This new book from Avery Hill Publishing collects together the first 3 volumes of Alabaster Pizzo’s acclaimed self published series, Mimi and The Wolves. It sees a young mouse get mixed up in a dark world of wolves and the occult and is a perfect fit for Avery Hill’s eclectic and thought provoking roster –  here’s why.

Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Writer: Alabaster Pizzo
Artist: Alabaster Pizzo
Price: £14.99 from Avery Hill Publishing

Mimi is a young mouse who loves an idyllic life making bunting and living self sufficiently with her  canine partner Bobo. However at night she is plagued by nightmarish visions of a mysterious long haired woman, who calls herself the Holy Venus, and questions Mimi’s place in the world. She compels Mimi to discover the meaning of her dreams by putting a symbol on some leaf bunting which she places in the woods, that in turn leads to her making a chance encounter with a wolf called Ergamot who invites her to join him and his partner Ivy in their pack. Despite her friends warning, Mimi is drawn into this enigmatic world of the wolves (who have a stronger connection to Venus) as she attempts to find meaning in her dreams. In doing so, she alienates her friends and gets caught up in an increasingly dark and sinister world with the wolves, to the detriment of her previous life.

Mimi and the Wolves is a surreal mix of of cutesy animal comic and supernatural mythology. Clocking in at just over 200 pages this 3 volume collections is an epic slow burning story of self discovery, that juxtaposes the cutesy world of Mimi with the darker elements of the wolves’ world. It’s told in a very slow and careful way, with pages packed full of detail and minutiae. Pizzo’s style uses a simple line to give her characters plenty of personality, but in a very stylised hand drawn way – especially in the ornater chapter headings.

It feels quite simplistic at times (especially compared to more ornate anthropomorphic tales like Skip from Nobrow) but the lack of glossy finish is much better suited for this kind of story and book. In fact, it feels a perfect fit for Avery Hill as it reminded us of a number of their alumni, from the simple line work and expressive characters of Hannah Chapman’s work on Deep Space Canine to B. Mure’s animalistic world of Ismyre. While the darker elements, especially the wolves, evoked thoughts of Rachael Smith’s representation of her mental health in Wired Up Wrong as they feel both snarling and dark, but also loving and sweet in equal times.

While the book may starts off quite chintzy and sweet – with Mimi making pine cone bunting and hanging out with her pug boyfriend Bobo – it soon takes a very dark and supernatural direction, which by the end of volume 3 has left any vestiges of cute behind. The presence of Holy Venus feels like something from a New Romantic painting, mixed with a Celtic or Norse mythological slant, and the wolves are more like something from a horror film or Grimm fairytale. They bring a darkness to the world by enticing Mimi into wolf rituals like the ‘Howling’ which feels almost cult like at times, and you fear for Mimi’s safety in the process. In fact, the contrast between Mimi’s loving monogamous relationship with Bobo and her more complex almost abusive/controlling relationship with Ergamot and other wolves, (which sees her injured at times), makes for quite an unsettling read.

It certainly touches on dark themes and story elements that you would not expect in a book with such a cutesy main character and it feels like the kind of story you hear about when a friend gets in with a bad crowd and is blinded by love or infatuation. But what makes it work so well, is that it could be read subjectively, and be guided by your own personal experience. For some the idea of hanging out with the more edgy wolves could be seem as a good thing, as Miami discovers herself and breaks free from her old humdrum life. However she also does this at the expense of her old friendships and relationships, and her friends aren’t quite the same while she isn’t there – especially when Mimi returns from her time with the wolves injured.

Mimi’s friends are more than just simple plot device though and are fleshed out with subplots involving them struggling to remain self sufficient when Mimi stops spending time with them, and also how they integrate the the enigmatic Koala Kiko into their group – who has a mysterious past of their own.

All of which makes Mimi and the Wolves an incredibly dense and complex tale. The downside to this complexity of world and characters, is that the story does lack a sense of urgency in places. When not focusing on the main action it does feel a bit as if it drifts and meanders in places with scenes and story elements which may not obviously relate to the main thrust of the narrative.

While this slow pace can be seen as negative (it is quite the hefty read) however in reality it is one of those book which benefits from a slower pace in the long run. It allows the characters to become much richer and the drama feel much more significant as the story swells and grows rather than leaps from event to event. You definitely need to spend a good amount of time getting into the book in order to really invest in the characters. If you do, then you will be rewarded by a real emotional journey, as you get a better sense of things developing, relationships souring rather than imploding, and Mimi going on her own journey of discovery, both good and bad.

It’s another fascinating and thought provoking read from Avery Hill and a fantastic addition to the wonderful roster of books.